He Wrote Our Soul Music: Remembering Terry Pratchett

Paul Kidby - Disque Monde - Death

Terry Pratchett was an important author–to a lot of you, to a lot of your faves (Kieron Gillen, for example), to a lot of us. Here’s how.

Rachel Stevens: I remember working at a library part time in high school, and tracking down every Pratchett book I could find. I think the first work I read by him was The Last Hero, and I looked for the rest of his works from there.

Gollancz (13 Sept. 2007), Terry Pratchett & Paul Kidby

I adored his use of humor, his insight and wit, his ability to lay words down and have them truly mean something. He started the Discworld series with simple satire of fantasy tropes but moved onto societal critique and stories that could make the reader cry. I have sobbed more than once from his works, and I don’t regret the tears.

Here’s how much his work meant to me: I found an audiobook of one of the Discworld books, Thief of Time. The thing was, it was in audiocassette form. I carried around a purple portable tape player and the tapes to work to listen to on break, and listened for hours and hours at home. I went to that trouble because his words were worth it, even spoken.

Claire: When I was in years nine and ten, I was having a bad time and read the cover off my copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Luckily, for when that thick, full year of magic was too familiar, my school library had a paperback of Soul Music. Susan, teenage boarding school rebel Deathtress, hot for the boy in the band who needed her that one time. The Band with Rocks In. Bud y Celyn. Bigger than cheeses. To be unharmfully rude and have linguistic fun with this book was such a great relief, and I learnt many lessons there that I kept.

vimes economic boots

Later, I met Vimes, to whom I owe my good boots. They were a financial risk, but Vimes’ Theory said take it, so I did. No regrets. Vimes’ relationship with his own mind is very important to me. Typing this I made an actual noise of sadness, with my throat, which I didn’t expect to happen.

Once I saw Terry Pratchett through a window, when he was doing a signing in my town.

Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies, novel coverJo: The boy I had a crush on in 8th grade had given me a copy of Feet of Clay, and I liked it, but not as much as I liked the boy. My parents had gotten divorced, and I was finally able to read whatever I wanted to, and happily raced through the back catalogues of some fantasy big names: McCaffrey, Eddings, et al. But when I finally got to the Witches novels, specifically Lords & Ladies, I fell completely in love. All the fantasy I read had featured fiery redheads or pragmatic brunettes, or magician’s apprentices with a heart of gold. But Granny Weatherwax was a person I wanted to be: solving big problems with practical solutions.

Nadia: I was in my freshman year and a friend gave me The Colour of Magic. The next book she gave me was Small Gods, and then I lost count. I just swallowed all Discworld books I was able to find, and basically it was my very first experience with a full bodied fiction universe. It was not Middle Earth, nor the galaxy far, far away, but the Discworld that gave me the first-in-a-lifetime thrill: “Wow, it has well-developed geography! Oh, and characters wander from book to book! And these insightful jokes!”

Discworld Map, partial fragment, Terry Pratchett & Stephen Briggs, Corgi, 1995

In 2007, Terry Pratchett came to Moscow, and I was covering his visit for a magazine I was working for then. I don’t remember a lot of details of Terry Pratchett’s Q&A, except that he looked like most of photos (all black, hat on) and he was an extremely witty and easy and pleasant person. Speaking about his success and recognition, he said: “The harder I worked, the luckier I became.” I’ve recalled these words several times during the past years, in moments I felt that all I do is meaningless. It helped like nothing else.

When Terry Pratchett was signing my book after the Q&A, I was so excited I missed “e” and “h” when spelling my full name, Nadezhda. So the inscription on the copy says “To Nadzda.” Sounds funny and unutterable enough to be a Discworld version of my name.

Ivy: I was 13. My parents had just separated–a nasty, scarring separation for all involved. I’d always been a reader of fantasy: The Hobbit and The Dark Is Rising were staples of my childhood, and coupled with an obsession with the now-forgotten anime Record of Lodoss War and a sudden decision that I was, in fact, a Wiccan, I was living for elves, dragons, and magic (with an extra K). In the wake of my family life crumbling, depression creeped in for the first time. I developed severe depersonalization episodes. I needed joy. My older brother, then in college, handed me Feet Of Clay, and I devoured it–and then another Discworld, and another. Pratchett had painted a world I couldn’t believe existed: one of mystery and fantasy, but most of all, of humor. I hadn’t known you could write books of quality, fantastical work, that was also so hilarious it made me laugh myself to tears. Even now, I can imagine me, a young, messy, confused teenager, sitting on the futon in my childhood room at two in the morning, illuminated only by the harsh light of an Ikea desk lamp, in a house suddenly more empty, laughing into my sleeve as I read Mort. Pratchett’s work was a comfort, and he was a role model, someone who taught me how to write humor without sacrificing quality. If you’ve ever liked anything I’ve written, thank Terry Pratchett.

Claire Napier

Claire Napier

Critic, ex-Editor in Chief at WWAC, independent comics editor; the rock that drops on your head. Find me at clairenapierclairenapier@gmail.com and give me lots of money